Islam is the second largest world religion behind Christianity, to the tune of over one billion people followers (known as Muslims). While Islam is in the majority in Middle Eastern countries, this religion is also the fastest growing religion in the world and is gaining a strong foothold in the West. Indonesia has more Muslims (178 million) than any other country. They consider themselves sons of Ishmael, the son of the sexual union between Abraham and his wife’s maidservant Hagar (Genesis 16).
They have contributed much on the world stage:
They have developed the Arabic numerals, which we use today;
Developed the sines of Algebra and trigonometry
Highly developed in nautical and astronomical sciences
Incredible artwork in their architecture.
What Problem Are the Followers of Islam Trying to Solve
Stephen Prothero in his book God is Not One, contends that the problem Islam tries to solve is self-sufficiency. He makes a great case. The word ‘Islam’ means “submission” or “surrender.” Like Christianity, Islam sought to move their followers away from a self-centered life. While Christians call for a submission to Christ, Muslims call for submission to Allah.
Allah is the supreme being of all. He is uncreated, the creator of all, without beginning or end. He is completely sufficient to himself and needs no other. He does not have offspring nor a spouse. He knows all things, is everywhere, and is all powerful. He hears all prayers. Everything that occurs, does so by his permission.[i]
- Born in 570 A.D. in the city of Mecca (located in modern day Saudi Arabia), and died in 632 at the age of 62.
- One time, Mecca was a center of gross idolatry, with worship of multiple gods prevalent
- Did not like what happened at Mecca; began to retreat to a cave in Mecca to retreat and pray.
- At 40 in cave of Hira, an angel whom he identified as Gabriel came to reveal message of Allah—did so over a 23 year period. Collection of writings known as the Quran (also spelled Koran);
- Unified all Arab tribes under one umbrella, unified under one god
- Greatest and final prophet, greater than Jesus
- Caliphs were successors
- Spread of Islam caused by traders
The Quran: the Islamic Scriptures
- Based upon the words given to him over a 23 year period in a cave in Medina.
- Mohammed could not read, so he had someone dictate these revelations. The entirety of the Quran was not compiled until after Mohammed died, by his father-in-law, Caliph Abu-Bakr, Muhammad’s father in law, became the caliph (religious leader of the Muslims) and there was a small effort to collect the fragments of Qur’anic sayings into a common place. But, it wasn’t until the fourth leader of Islam, Caliph Uthman, that the whole Qur’an was finally assembled, approved, and disseminated throughout the Muslim world.
- Contains 114 chapters (called Surahs) which are organized from the largest to the smallest.
The Five Pillars
- Shahada: a proclamation that “There is no true God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” He is sovereign over all and expects his followers to heed the Quran (their Scriptures). This is over and against the Christian Trinity or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—a doctrine which they consider polytheistic and thus incorrect.
- Prayer (Salat). Performed give times per day, involving confession of sin and the purification of body and soul. The names of the prayers are Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha. The Maghrib prayer is the sunset prayer. Isha is the prayer that is said after sunset. There is also a prayer that is said right after Fajr known as Shurooq.
- Fasting (Saum): During the month of Ramadan (the month of fasting in Islam), this is where the Muslim surrenders his own needs and seeks Allah. Usually, this fasting entails no drinking, eating, or sexual relations during the daylight hours for the entire month of Ramadan.
- Alms-giving or charity (Zakat): This offering benefits the poor and it helps the giver by moving him towards more holiness and submission to Allah. Alms-giving is considered a form of worship to God.
- Pilgrimage (Hajj): All Muslims, if they are able, are to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. It involves financial sacrifice and is an act of worship. Muslims must make the pilgrimage the first half of the last month of the lunar year
Jihad has been elevated by Muslims to a pillar (making it the sixth pillar). Jihad means “struggle,” and often conjures up pictures of ‘holy war,’ with bombings and riots in the streets. Yet, Muslims will also say this is a spiritual struggle as they work to submit to the teachings of Allah and the Quran.
The Greater Jihad is the internal spiritual struggle of the Muslim toward submission to Allah. The Lesser Jihad is Holy War against non-Muslims based on principle of belief.